Epilepsy and Seizures

Epilepsy is diagnosed when a person has more than one episode of epileptic seizures. Learn more about epilepsy symptoms and seizure attacks.

Understanding Seizures and Epilepsy

A seizure is an abnormal electrical discharge of a group of brain cells. It can cause different symptoms, depending on the location of the seizure and the spread of electrical activity through the brain.

A person has epilepsy when he/she has more than one episode of seizures or if assessed to have a high risk of having recurrent seizures.

People who experience a stroke, brain injury, infection or tumour can have epilepsy. In around half the cases, a cause cannot be found.

Triggers of seizures in patients with epilepsy include stress, lack of sleep, menstruation, concurrent infection and skipping medications.

Types of Seizures

There are two main types of seizures:

Focal Seizures

  • Usually affects only one part of the body
  • Result in sensory, motor or autonomic disturbances
  • The patient may be conscious or unconscious

Generalised Seizures

  • May start as a focal seizure and spread throughout the whole brain
  • Loss of consciousness usually lasts 30 seconds to 5 minutes
  • Usually, rhythmic muscle jerking lasting 1 to 2 minutes
  • May cause tongue biting, incontinence and difficulty in breathing

If a person experiences continuous seizures for more than 3-5 minutes, or on and off seizures without regaining consciousness in between, call 995 or go to the Emergency Department immediately. He/she is having a severe seizure, and this is a medical emergency.

Diagnosing Seizures and Epilepsy

Epilepsy is diagnosed based on information of events that happened during the attack. Tests may be ordered to confirm the diagnosis, type and cause.

  • Electroencephalogram (EEG)

This test records the electrical activity of the brain through electrodes attached to the patient's head. The patient may be asked to perform simple tasks during the EEG recording.

  • Computerised Tomography (CT) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Either form of imaging may be required to look for structural causes of seizures.

Preventing Seizures and Epilepsy

REDUCE risk of seizures:

  • Take prescribed anti-epileptic medications regularly
  • Avoid overconsumption of alcohol/alcohol binges
  • Seek early treatment for illness and fever
  • Reduce stress levels
  • Get sufficient sleep and rest

Prevent complications of seizures by AVOIDING the following:

  • Swimming unsupervised or in open waters
  • Activities at height
  • Bathing in a bathtub
  • Activities involving open fire and hot surfaces
  • Activities involving heavy machinery and firearms
  • Driving. Seek the advice of your doctor.

Treating Seizures and Epilepsy

Anti-epileptic medications are the first-line treatment. Different types of medication may be prescribed. The more common side effects include sleepiness and dizziness.

Patients with focal seizures and are not responding to medications may consider surgery.

Managing Seizures and Epilepsy

Keep a seizure diary to record the number, type and triggers of seizures. This will help your doctors assess the effectiveness of medications.

When someone is having a seizure:

  • Remain Calm
  • Protect the person from harm
  • Turn the person to the side
  • Observe the type and duration of seizure
  • DO NOT restrain the person unless there is danger
  • DO NOT put anything in the mouth
  • DO NOT crowd around the person

Support for Seizures and Epilepsy

Singapore Epilepsy Foundation

The Singapore Epilepsy Foundation provides support for epilepsy patients with their caregivers and increases public awareness of epilepsy. For more information, contact 6334 4302 or visit www.epilepsy.com.sg

Epilepsy Care Group (Singapore)

The Epilepsy Care Group (Singapore) provides education and counselling for epilepsy patients and their caregivers while promoting public awareness to find out more, contact 6358 0566 or visit www.epilepsycare.com.sg

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